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The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on the Faust story.

Two versions of the play exist, one dated to 1604 and the other to 1616. The second text shows considerable editing and extension and seems to have been posthumously extended by other hands. It is believed to have been the second of Marlowe's plays given a public performance, and also the first dramatic reworking of the Faust tale.

It is probable that Marlowe developed the story from a popular translation, The English Faust in short title [1], of 1592 from a German edition of 1587. The development of the play is very close to the book, especially in the mix of comedy and tragedy.

The play is in blank verse and prose in thirteen scenes (1604) or twenty scenes (1616). The blank verse is largely reserved for the main scenes while prose is used in the comedy scenes. Together with Faust, the main characters are Faust's servant Wagner, Mephistopheles, the demon with whom Faust deals, and who accompanies him, a set of clowns in a mocking subplot, a host of simplified and allegorical figures, and a chorus.

Unlike later works, notably that of Goethe, Marlowe's Faust pays the price of his diabolical deal and is irrecoverably damned.


  1. The History of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus by P.F. Gent. The book is often described as a chapbook, this refers only to its method of sale - it was distributed by itinerant pedlars called chapmen.

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